Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI) is a fertility center with 12 locations in and around the Chicago, Illinois, area. The fertility clinic offers egg freezing to women for social and medical reasons.
FCI's Eve Feinberg, M.D., Director, Fertility Centers of Illinois — Center for Fertility Preservation. answered questions about egg freezing.
How long has FCI been performing egg freezing?
FCI has been performing oocyte vitrification since 2005. FCI's first live birth from vitrified and warmed oocytes was in 2009.
Who are you offering egg freezing services to? What types of patients?
Egg freezing is available to any woman who wants to defer childbearing until a future date. Patients who are great candidates for egg freezing are those who are at risk for ovarian failure due to chemotherapy, radiation or surgery due to a newly diagnosed cancer or other medical conditions such as lupus or sickle cell anemia that require chemotherapy or bone marrow transplants. You do not need to have cancer or a medical disease to freeze eggs. This can be done electively as well.
What does your clinic consider the optimal age for egg freezing? What are the other criteria? Do you have a cut-off age?
This is controversial and an excellent question. 30 is good because fertility should still be excellent in most women. Furthermore, a 30 year old woman possesses a certain level of maturity and can understand the concept of egg freezing as well as the involved risks. In this age group, eggs should be high quality and plentiful.
We usually do not recommend egg freezing after 41. However, we individualize the recommendation based on age, antral follicle count and FSH. Most centers note the lack of data in women 40 years old or more, but this group may need the technology most of all if they have begun to slide toward menopause. The criteria for assessing ovarian reserve should be part of the discussion, rather than an age cut-off. Ovarian reserve testing predicts response to stimulation and not likelihood of future pregnancy. It can be helpful in counseling a woman how she may respond to the medication and what her egg yield may be. It should not be used as exclusionary unless the results show menopausal values.
Once eggs are frozen, where are they stored?
We store them in our IVF laboratory, which is on site. We have round-the-clock monitoring to ensure the tanks and power source are protected. When requested, offsite storage can be arranged.
How long do you feel eggs can be stored safely?
We don’t have long-term data to know the true answer yet, but it is safe to assume that eggs will remain viable for at least 10 years.
Is there a cut-off age that you recommend for women to have eggs thawed, fertilized and transferred in a cycle?
The use of frozen eggs is dictated by the woman's choice of when to have a baby. It may be related to career, marriage, a life partner, or a social or financial situation. From an obstetric viewpoint, risks of pregnancy increase as a woman ages, and similar to the recommendation for oocyte donation, we do not recommend pregnancy after the age of 50.
Has your fertility clinic had live births from frozen eggs? How many?
To date, we have had 30 live births from frozen oocytes and have a number of patients currently pregnant. We expect these numbers to increase dramatically in the coming years. We have the most experience with frozen oocytes in the Midwest and are excited to be on the cutting edge of this incredible technology.
What is the price range for freezing eggs, and what does that range cover?
The cost is around $7,500. Cancer patients are eligible to receive a grant through FCI’s Oncofertility program and the cost is minimal. $7500 includes physician consultations, ultrasound monitoring, the egg retrieval procedure and anesthesia. Fees do not include long-term storage or fertility medications needed for ovarian stimulation.
What are the reasons a woman would NOT be a good candidate for freezing her eggs?
Age and severely compromised ovarian reserve are the primary reasons a woman would not be a good candidate for oocyte preservation. If ovarian reserve testing shows menopausal values or if a woman fails to respond to ovarian stimulation despite multiple attempts, she would not be able to freeze oocytes.
What is the most exciting aspect of ASRM lifting the experimental label? How do you think this will change the face of fertility treatment?
The lifting of the experimental label was a decision that was long overdue. I am a member of the SART practice committee, the group that helped create the recommendation to remove the label. Unlike egg freezing, sperm freezing never had an experimental label. This is a measure we had been working towards for quite some time.
The removal of the label allows patients to pursue oocyte vitrification with confidence in the technological capabilities. The fertility industry itself will increasingly shift towards egg freezing as we move forward, and this will allow a wider breadth of patient options. There are currently 1,500 babies born from frozen eggs, and data shows no increase in congenital anomalies.
It is my hope that this change will also allow egg freezing to be eligible for insurance coverage, similar to other fertility treatments currently covered. Perhaps this will also pave the path to wider treatment coverage for single women and same sex couples looking to conceive, two groups which are currently discriminated against by insurance companies.
What should a woman look for in a fertility clinic that does egg freezing?
The three factors to consider are experience, success and a physician you are comfortable with. Anyone can freeze an egg, but the warming process and subsequent embryo culture are more challenging. Has the center had success? How many cases have they done? What is the survival rate of the warmed eggs? What is the pregnancy rate? Is your physician attentive and thoughtful to your needs?
If you are interested in egg freezing, CLICK HERE and we will will put you in contact with FCI or a fertility clinic near you!
November 29, 2012
Posted by Leigh Ann Woodruff